Book Review: House of 100 Storeys 100层的房子 (3 book set)

Author:  Toshio Iwai
Country of original publication: Japan
Language: Simplified Chinese
Pages per book: 32
Lines per page: 2 – 4
Books in the series: 3
Pinyin: no
Audio available: 
Luka compatible
Available in Singapore NLB: Yes

What is 100层的房子 series?

This is a very different kind of picture book.  Imagine receiving a strange letter and a map, saying “Come to my home – I stay at the top of a 100 storey building!” – and then reading the book from back to front, with text going vertically….. maybe this sounds a little like Traditional Chinese book, but it’s a totally different concept going on here.

This is a stunningly illustrated and imaginative book set about three different houses which are 100 stories tall (or 100 stories underground, and 100 stories in the ocean).  The original books are in Japanese: they haven’t been translated into English, but they have been translated into Simplified Chinese. With the bright colours, detailed illustrations and clever story-telling through vertically oriented text, the book has been lauded with numerous prizes in Japan, Hong Kong and Taiwan.    It will be no surprise to a reader to learn that their author/illustrator, Toshio Iwai, is an acclaimed artist who has also created several successful commercial video games.  The books do really feel like you’re in a video game brought to life!

Who is this series for?

We came across this book because my primary school-age daughter loves to read a set of English fiction books called The 13-Storey Tree House by Terry Denton and Andy Griffiths.  These are wonderful novels, which in fact won the Australian Book Industry Award for Book of the Year for Older Children in 2012.  So, when I saw The House of 100 Storeys, I thought the set could be a fairly good alternative to this in Chinese.  And it is – they have a similar style of content and masterfully creative storyline, but with more pictures than words, for a child who is perhaps less fluent with their Chinese reading than their English level.

I’ve written previously about a few book series which we’ve discovered in Simplified Chinese that are largely similar in style to English books my children already had been fascinated with. These include Young Scientists Magazine and Captain Underpants.

If your child enjoys this series in English….They might enjoy this series in Simplified ChineseLink to my book review
The Young Scientists Magazine100 Thousand Whys Magazine
Reviewed here
Diary of a Wimpy Kid or similar school diariesMi Xiao Quan School Diaries
Reviewed here
13-Storey Tree House seriesHouse of 100 Storeys 
This review!
Captain Underpants series or Detective storiesButt Detective (屁屁侦探)Reviewed here
English Children’s literature which have a good alternative in Chinese

13-Storey Tree House certainly has a good equivalent in House of 100 Storeys (100层的房子).

13-Storey Tree House certainly has a good equivalent in House of 100 Storeys (100层的房子).

In much the same way as 13-Story Tree House, the book takes the reader on an adventure level by level, with each page describing a new and very different layer of the house.  The storyline is filled with suspense and is rich in details, covering topics from geography, geology, mathematics, biology and meteorology in a fun fashion.  For example, there is a different set of animals on every tenth floor – a marvellously wonderful array of animals is described, from their habitats to their characteristics.

In the Undersea edition, it revolves around a young girl on board a cruise ship, who accidentally drops her doll into the ocean. As the reader searches for her lost doll, we end up on a magical journey exploring the depths of the ocean, in a rather unconventional and unexpected way. 

I think the book content would be appropriate for children aged 5 to 12, however certainly the child needs to have a high level of fluency and concentration to understand these books.  It really takes about 30 minutes to read the book from back-to-front.  However, simply looking at the pictures is also a fun activity in itself.  Sometimes my daughter will just stare through all the pictures, examining the small detail of the little animals eating, exercising, bathing, sleeping, etc.  Other days, she’ll look at each page and try to guess who lives on the next floor.

Unfortunately, being a vertically oriented book, it’s very hard to do justice to it in photographs.  You need to see the real thing!  The details are exquisite.

What’s especially good?

  • Exquisitely detailed pictures: there are more pictures than text, creating lots of space for exploring and looking, and engaging the child
  • The text is vertically-oriented: showing a child how they can be creative with written language 
  • The stories cleverly combine a fun narrative and facts: the delightful pictures give way to encyclopaedia-like facts, which is especially great for children who like numbers and science
  • There isn’t an English version: so if the child likes the concept, this is the only version they can read!
  • All books are Luka Compatible: Luka reads them in Chinese only

Another blogger (@ The Multilingual Experiment) has made a lovely summary of the key themes / lessons / words which this book can be used for, grouped into animals, everyday objects, prepositions and verbs. Have a look if you’re keen to use this book as part of curriulum.

Titles in the series:

We have three books:

  • 100层的房子 House of 100 Stories 
  • 海底100层的房子 House of 100 Stories Undersea 
  • 地下100层的房子House of 100  Stories Underground

Where to buy 100层的房子 in Singapore?

You can buy in Singapore from many great children’s Chinese bookstores. I made a blog post listing all our family’s favourite haunts to find excellent Chinese literature for Children in Singapore. The list includes some 10% discount codes for our favourite stores.

Specifically, we bought our 100 House set from  My Story Treasury.   I’m excited to share that My Story Treasury has also kindly extended a discount code to all readers of my blog.  Please use “lahlahbanana10” on check-out to receive 10% off any title that your purchase through their store.

Luka Compatible?

Yes, all three books can be read on Luka, in Chinese.  If you haven’t heard of Luka yet, you really must! Luka Reading Robot is a clever – and super cute – robot which will read physical picture books aloud to your family.  This adorable owl-shaped reading companion can read aloud over 50,000 Chinese books, which is great for families like ours where neither parent speaks Chinese.

I’ve made a long list of all the Luka Compatible books which we love in a separate post too.

Other similar books to 100 House series in Chinese

f your family already enjoys this series, there are some other similar books which I would recommend trying out:

  • Other mystery books:  Butt Detective is one, as mentioned above. Nate the Great is another detective set my daughter really enjoys.  We have a bilingual version, which has English at one end, and Simplified Chinese at the other.  It’s more of a novel than a picture book, but the vocabulary used is not any harder than the 100 House series.
  • Books at a similar level of Chinese reading: For other similar level Chinese books, listed by complexity of characters, please see my earlier post on Chinese bridging books.
  • Other picture books which also can be narrated by Luka Reading Robot: See my list of Luka compatible books at this link, sorted by age group.
  • Other books which have been translated from Japanese: There are some excellent picture books which have been translated in Chinese, and contain these really uniquely wonderful pictures (think manga / anime crossed with video games) and / or fantastic storylines.  Our favourites include Mr Crow’s Bakery, and the T-Rex series.  But there are seriously lots and lots!

For more book recommendations, see my collection of earlier reviews:

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